Communication Department Adds Faculty, Expands Scope

Posted: September 7, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Gary Kreps, the newly appointed chair of the Department of Communication and the Steve A. and Eileen P. Mandell Professor in Health Communication, sees the department moving in new directions. With the hire of three other distinguished full professors, as well as the introduction of important upcoming research projects and enhancement of the department’s current programs, Kreps is extremely excited about the future for communication research, education, and applications at George Mason.

“My colleagues and I have ambitious plans for helping to focus, upgrade, and expand the Communication Department, including introducing exciting new research programs to help address important social issues, developing relevant new courses, and building innovative new graduate programs,” he says.

Kreps would like to focus on the Health, Risk, and Crisis Communication graduate program at Mason, expanding the MA program and developing a new PhD program in that specialization. He is also in the process of coordinating development of an interdisciplinary $12 million grant application to the Department of Homeland Security to create a Center of Excellence in Behavioral and Social Science Research on Terrorism and Counterterrorism. Kreps will be the principal investigator of the project, collaborating with many other George Mason departments and programs.

An expert in health communication and risk/crisis communication, Kreps previously was the founding chief of the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH). At NIH, he planned, developed, and coordinated major new national research and outreach initiatives concerning risk communication, health promotion, behavior change, technology development, and information dissemination to promote cancer prevention and control. He will hold a joint appointment with Mason’s National Center for Biodefense, where he will examine the role of communication in preventing, preparing for, and responding effectively to potential biological threats and crises.

Other new department faculty include Carl Botan, an internationally recognized expert in corporate relations, crisis management, and public relations research, theory, and education; and Robert Lichter, a prominent political media scholar who is president of the nationally acclaimed Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) in Washington, D.C. CMPA, a media research organization that analyzes major media outlets’ coverage of current events, will now be affiliated with George Mason University and will provide new research opportunities for students and faculty. Next fall, Jim McAuley, a leading scholar of gerontology and health care, will also join the faculty.

“The critical role of communication in society affects all aspects of modern life—health care, politics, media, intercultural relations, organizational life, education, and family relations,” says Kreps. “We are planning to develop a stronger research and educational focus on the applications of communication knowledge in society, building our new graduate programs to highlight and complement our solid undergraduate programs in communication.”

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